Inquirer: Philadelphia’s Dark History of Police Misconduct – Could a Change Be Coming?

By Nico Ludwig-Stock

PHILADELPHIA, PA – District Attorney Larry Krasner’s policies have been criticized for leading to rising crime rates in Philadelphia, but it is Krasner’s commitment to justice, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer, that suggests a change is coming for the better—change that will counter corruption, improve policing and reduce crime in Philadelphia.

Thanks to the Conviction Integrity Unit Krasner created, nearly 40 wrongly convicted people—nearly all of them Black men—have been exonerated since he took office in 2018, and, in most cases, the wrongful convictions were “the result of misconduct by either the police or prosecutors (or both) who withheld evidence, forced false confessions, or committed perjury,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In one case, as the Inquirer recounts, a Black man named David Sparks was wrongly convicted with two young girls’ faulty eyewitness testimony. Another witness was pressured to sign a statement they did not write. Police also had evidence that would have helped prove Sparks’ evidence they did not turn over. Sparks had witnessed the murder and was the one who had called 911 to report the shooting.

During the case hearing this month for Sparks, Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio said Sparks’ conviction was the sixth one he dismissed in three days. Sparks, who was 16 at the time of his conviction, had spent 15 years in prison.

Three of the other convictions overturned by Judge DiClaudio were the result of misconduct by one man: former homicide detective Philip Nordo. His trail of misconduct so far has resulted in 15 convictions being overturned. Nordo has also since been convicted himself for “sexually abusing witnesses and informants while on the job,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In general, settlements for police misconduct have been piling up, with more than 900 claims filed against the city of Philadelphia between 2016 and 2022, notes the newspaper.

And most of the claims involve “excessive force, false arrests, illegal searches, and malicious prosecutions.” This is costing taxpayers millions a year. Since 2016, the city has paid $116 million to settle police misconduct cases. Meanwhile, the police budget continues to rise, yet crime rates continue going up as well.

John McNesby, recently departed former head of the police union, would often support officers with histories of misconduct, thereby impeding reform, charged the Inquirer.

Perhaps there is hope that his replacement, Roosevelt Poplar, will make a change. The arrival of Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker alongside a new police commissioner and new union boss may also indicate a promising change, says the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Perhaps with the help of District Attorney Krasner, they can foster a culture of accountability in the Philadelphia Police Department, fight corruption, and reduce crime rates, the Inquirer wrote.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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